Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Coffee for the Caregiver

Caregivers are often a hidden group of people. Some are hidden more than others. There are the caregivers who sit night and day by their mother or father who is suffering from a debilitating illness like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Many times they may not have anyone to relieve them for days at a time. They are unable to go to church or out to the store. They are basically hidden away. These people no doubt had friends before their parent became ill. The priority of caring for their parents, however, overtook the priorities of coffee and shopping with friends, and their friends either misunderstood or did not know how to help.

Caregivers may not ask for help because they feel responsible for the one for whom they give care. They probably will not bring up the anxiety and depression they sometimes fall into when dealing with all of the aspects of care that go into their loved one. If they do not know the Lord or if they do not have a spouse to help, they are basically alone. Caregivers are a huge ministry. They minister, but they need to be ministered to as well. There is actually a passage in the Bible that points strongly to this ministry. I recently heard a message on this passage, and I believe it is a message to those who must care for the caregiver as well as to the caregivers themselves.

James 5:13-16 speaks strongly to this topic of the those who are down-trodden. Most of us look at this passage and see the English words sick and think of those sick and dying. The Greek words here, however actually lend themselves more to weakness with the first word where we are commanded to pray and weariness with the second  that can take place if we become so distraught we are unable to even pray.

Verse 13 begins by instructing those who are sick to pray. This word sick in the Greek is used also as the word "weak." This weakness seems to aim more at a depression or sadness rather than physical sickness as in the next part it encourages the merry to also pray or sing praises.

The next verse, though has a more serious tone, and it talks about calling the elders of the church to anoint the "sick" with oil, and the prayer of faith for this person will save them.  The problem with going with the actual word sick the way we think of it is that God does not always choose to heal the sick from their sickness, and the Greek word backs this up as it means weary and is used in only one other spot - Hebrews 12:3 in the same way - not for a person who is sick and dying but for the weary. Weariness is something that can be physical, but it is mental, and also can be spiritual. Those who are weary are those here who probably do not have the strength to pray, so calling the elders to pray for them is their only hope. It is not our practice to anoint with oil. Most likely this could be compared to encouraging someone through prayer and making them a nice cup of coffee, bring them a warm heating pad, and maybe burning a soothing candle to help them relax. The oils were used for different purposes in the Bible, and it may be more cultural, but we can take the purpose behind that these weary people have stopped caring for themselves to this degree spiritually where they are unable to pray and physically where they cannot care for their bodies.

This is a passage for all of us - not just for the elders of the church. We all have a responsibility to minister to those who are weak and weary. It is sometimes hard to see these people, because often their reason for weariness keeps them home. The verse actually says for the one who is weary to call for the elders. This speaks to the truth that sometimes when we are weary, we need to ask for help and prayer. We need to admit their we are struggling, and that is a hard thing to do. I would think it especially hard for someone who has come to the point where they are unable to pray.

So whether you are the weary one or you are the friend of one who is weary, pray and give. It might just be a hot cup of coffee and prayer, but God does not want us to ignore this part of his congregation.

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